Antiques and Collectibles Defined

Antiques and collectibles are often grouped together, which is interesting since they are definitely not the same thing. While antiques are often collectible, collectibles are not necessarily antiques.

How Old Are Antiques and Collectibles

While antiques are generally considered to be items over 100 years old (at least that’s the definition given by U.S. customs for duty purposes), collectibles are (in comparison) a relatively new phenomenon. The craze began in the 1960s with items like Coca-Cola paraphernalia and Mickey Mouse watches, and grew with items like baseball cards, and action figures. Given the time, many collectibles can be considered vintage (at least 30 years old). While the hobby of collecting was not considered new, the notion of modern-day collectibles (action-figures, vintage novelty and nostalgia items, etc.) really got going in this era.

What Are Antiques, What Are Collectibles

Unlike antiques, which were often handmade, the modern-day version of collectibles got their start in factories. They were produced in larger amounts on assembly lines. Since there was a big market for the items, they were mass-produced. They were also often inexpensive at the time they were originally manufactured.

Similarly to antiques the definition of collectibles is different depending on who is asked. Ask a non-collector and they will probably mention little toys and dolls that are specifically marketed as collectibles or, quite possibly, they will specifically mention Beanie Babies (those cute little bean bag toys that caused a collecting sensation a decade or so ago). Sometimes the non-collector will mention stamps or coins.

Ask a collector and one will get an in-depth answer on the feelings that are evoked, the nostalgia factor, or even the investment made and the hunt to find the items. Although collectors always hope their collections will increase in value, profit is rarely the reason they got started collecting.

Early Collectibles

The earliest collectibles were included as incentives with other products, such as toys in boxes of Cracker Jacks. Popular items developed a secondary market and sometimes became the subject of collectible crazes. Eventually many collectible items came to be sold separately, instead of being used as marketing tools to increase the appeal of other products.

To encourage collecting, manufacturers often create an entire series of a given collectible, with each item differentiated in some fashion. Examples include sports cards depicting individual players, or different designs of specific toys, like Barbie Dolls. Collectors often try to assemble a complete set.

Antique Collectibles

Because nothing is ever easy, there is an area where antiques and collectibles overlap. Items like silver baby spoons, antique books, and coins that are over a hundred years old can be considered both antiques and collectibles. However, this is something of a gray area. While it’s true that these items are collectible, once they hit the century mark, many dealers and auction houses put them into the antiques category. For the most part, when people in the industry refer to collectibles, they are referring to vintage items, not antiques.

Limited-Edition Collectibles

Limited-edition collectibles are items made in limited quantities. Sometimes they trade on the secondary market fairly quickly, and can even rise in value quickly after they are first issued. In the long run, however, they don’t generally demand the same high prices as time passes. Once initial demand has died down, the value often plummets. Such a thing doesn’t exist in the world of antiques. They are items that were well made, and have stood the test of time. Their value lies in the quality, craftsmanship, and style of the item. No item is ever produced with the intent of becoming a valuable antique.

What makes an older collectible valuable is rarity, condition, and, of course, the demand for that particular item. The fact that these items were mainly used and discarded by our ancestors makes them harder to come by and in many instances worth more money as well. So think twice about being hard on pack-rats. They might just be sitting on a fortune!